Preserving Precious Lung Function

A new blood test guides treatment for dangerous infections.

Milene Saavedra, MD (seated), and Vijaya Knight, MD, PhD, identify effective treatments for cystic fibrosis patients.There are more than a dozen antibiotics that physicians can select and combine to treat the repeated respiratory infections that afflict patients with cystic fibrosis. These infections damage lungs and lead to eventual respiratory failure. Knowing as quickly as possible if a chosen combination of antibiotics is working is crucial to rapidly resolving the infection, reducing lung damage and minimizing toxic side effects of treatment.

Associate Professor of Medicine Milene Saavedra, MD, and her colleagues have identified a panel of 10 inflammatory genes whose expression levels change
as inflammation begins to recede. Measuring the activity of these genes allows physicians to quickly assess how a person is responding to treatment. That
improves the chances that an infection will resolve quickly and cause no lasting damage.

The 10-gene panel has been patented. The Advanced Diagnostic Laboratories at National Jewish Health are developing a commercial test, which is already
being used to measure response for cystic fibrosis medications in clinical trials.